homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about cars

How the Tesla Model S is made

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2013

A nice video from Wired that shows how Tesla’s sedan is made.

Tesla got the factory for a song from Toyota in 2010, spent about a year or so setting up tooling and started producing the Model S sedan in mid-2012. The automaker brings in raw materials by the truckload, including the massive rolls of aluminum that are bent, pressed, and formed to create the car. Those lightweight components are assembled by swarm of red robots in an intricate ballet that is mesmerizing to behold.

(via ★interesting)

Trailer for season two of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2013

People love Jerry Seinfeld so much that we will watch him driving cars and drinking coffee with other comedians. Wait, that actually sounds fantastic!

All the season one episodes are available on YouTube, featuring Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards, and Larry David. (via devour)

VW Beetle sphere

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2013

Indonesian artist Ichwan Noor made this amazing thing, a 1953 Volkswagen Beetle formed into a sphere:

VW sphere

Make intersections safer by removing stoplights

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2013

Cars were moving too fast through an intersection in the town of Poynton in England, so they took out the stoplights & walk signals and replaced the intersection with an unusual double roundel design. The result is a mixed-use space with slower moving car traffic and safer pedestrian traffic.

(via digg)

How a differential gear works

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2013

I’ve posted this before, but it’s so good, here it is again: a super-simple explanation of why differential gears are necessary in cars and how they work.

(via @stevenstrogatz)

Crouching government, hidden compartment

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2013

Alfred Anaya was really good at putting secret compartments into cars and he thought he was in the clear if he didn’t know what his customers were putting in these compartments. He was wrong.

Alfred Anaya took pride in his generous service guarantee. Though his stereo installation business, Valley Custom Audio Fanatics, was just a one-man operation based out of his San Fernando, California, home, he offered all of his clients a lifetime warranty: If there was ever any problem with his handiwork, he would fix it for the cost of parts alone-no questions asked.

Anaya’s customers typically took advantage of this deal when their fiendishly loud subwoofers blew out or their fiberglass speaker boxes developed hairline cracks. But in late January 2009, a man whom Anaya knew only as Esteban called for help with a more exotic product: a hidden compartment that Anaya had installed in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the years, these secret stash spots-or traps, as they’re known in automotive slang-have become a popular luxury item among the wealthy and shady alike. This particular compartment was located behind the truck’s backseat, which Anaya had rigged with a set of hydraulic cylinders linked to the vehicle’s electrical system. The only way to make the seat slide forward and reveal its secret was by pressing and holding four switches simultaneously: two for the power door locks and two for the windows.

Esteban said the seat was no longer responding to the switch combination and that no amount of jiggling could make it budge. He pleaded with Anaya to take a look.

Anaya was unsettled by this request, for he had suspicions about the nature of Esteban’s work. There is nothing intrinsically illegal about building traps, which are commonly used to hide everything from pricey jewelry to legal handguns. But the activity runs afoul of California law if an installer knows for certain that his compartment will be used to transport drugs. The maximum penalty is three years in prison. Anaya thus thought it wise to deviate from his standard no-questions-asked policy before agreeing to honor his warranty. “There’s nothing in there I shouldn’t know about, is there?” he asked. Esteban assured him that he needn’t worry.

Read all the way to the end for author Brendan Koerner’s conclusions about our government’s position of the moral neutrality of technology.

Apple’s halo car

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2013

I really enjoyed this piece by John Siracusa about why Apple should continue to make a high-end personal computer (like the Mac Pro) even though it’s not a big seller or hugely profitable. Basically, the Mac Pro is Apple’s halo car:

In the automobile industry, there’s what’s known as a “halo car.” Though you may not know the term, you surely know a few examples. The Corvette is GM’s halo car. Chrysler has the Viper.

The vast, vast majority of people who buy a Chrysler car get something other than a Viper. The same goes for GM buyers and the Corvette. These cars are expensive to develop and maintain. Due to the low sales volumes, most halo cars do not make money for car makers. When Chrysler was recovering from bankruptcy in 2010, it considered selling the Viper product line.

But car companies continue to make halo cars in part because they are great cars, or at least have the potential to be great cars, and when a car company stops caring about making great cars, they lose their identity and credibility…with consumers, with employees, with investors, and with competitors. Halo cars are the difference between being a car company and being a company that sells cars.

Normally I’m not a big fan of advice like “do what big car companies do”, but what Siracusa’s piece demontrates is one of the things that’s problematic about data: there are important things about business and success that you can’t measure. And I would go so far as to say that these unmeasurables are the most important things, the stuff that makes or breaks a business or product or, hell, even a relationship, stuff that you just can’t measure quantitatively, no matter how Big your Data is. (via df)

Tesla Model S wins 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2012

Motor Trend chose the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year, the first time their top prize has gone to an electric car.

The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four-doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Oh, and it’ll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk. By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile, perhaps the most accomplished all-new luxury car since the original Lexus LS 400. That’s why it’s our 2013 Car of the Year.

The magazine went on to say that “the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel”. This is how environmentally friendly products win, by being better than the less green products they replace.

Robocars, whistlecars, and robotaxis, oh my

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2012

Brad Templeton imagines how the design of cars and other transportation systems might change with widespread use of driverless cars. I especially like the robocar used as a mobile office or a place to get a good night’s sleep as you travel from one place to the other.

The in-car environment will become more of a work and entertainment space than just a travel space. Passengers will expect things like a screen, a keyboard, and a desk. Passengers may wish to face one another (though not all are comfortable riding backwards.)

Quiet will be a very important consideration, though passengers will be allowed to wear headphones if desired, unlike drivers today.

The smooth ride (especially on the highway) of a robocar may generate demand for cars for night-travel, while the passengers sleep. Such vehicles might aim to make a trip last 8 hours rather than make the fastest possible trip, and as such would be much more energy efficient for such trips.

(This also requires a very low crash rate, as seat belts don’t work as well on flat beds.)

My guess is that the first big market for driverless cars will not be the US but somewhere smaller, more urban, and more used to experimentation with alternate modes of transportation. (via the atlantic)

Formula One cars are fast. Like super fast.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2012

Speaking of what fast looks like, here’s a pair of synced videos that show just how fast F1 cars are. On the left are drivers participating in a track day, that is, normal folks who want to drive their cars fast on a real race course. A couple of them look like actual GT cars and are moving pretty quick. On the right, you’ve got F1 cars on the same track. It’s not even close:

Here’s an overlaid version and you can also see how much faster F1 cars are than just 25 years ago…the 2011 F1 car beats the 1986 F1 car by an amazing 22 seconds over a total time of a minute and a half. (via @coreyh)

Update: In a speed test, an F1 car starts 40 seconds after a Mercedes sports car and 25 seconds after a V8 Supercar (essentially an Australian NASCAR) and still catches them by the end of the first lap.

Intersections in the age of driverless cars

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2012

Driverless cars is the type of innovation that may have unanticipated consequences. Sure, you can read Twitter while you’re being spirited around by your robotic car, but driverless cars may also end private car ownership. And what will intersections look like when used exclusively by driverless cars? Perhaps a little like this:

“There would be an intersection manager,” Stone says, “an autonomous agent directing traffic at a much finer-grain scale than just a red light for one direction and a green light for another direction.”

Because of this, we won’t need traffic lights at all (or stop signs, for that matter). Traffic will constantly flow, and at a rate that would probably unnerve the average human driver.

I wonder how people will abuse or have fun with driverless cars. Driver- and passenger-less car joyrides? Will they be hackable and if so, dangerous?

Driverless cars will redefine public transportation

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2011

In a short essay about The Unintended Effects of Driverless Cars (like the kind being tested by Google), Koushik Dutta guesses at what they might mean for the future of transportation.

Currently, a car spends 96% of its time idle. Compare that with planes which spend almost their entire lifetime in operation/airborne. Idle planes aren’t making money, and they need to recoup their hefty $120M price tag. There is an unforgiving economic incentive to make sure it is always in use.

The proliferation of driverless cars will have a similar effect. Cars will spend less time idle: why would a household buy 2 (or even 3) cars, when they only need 1? Ride to work, then send the car home to your spouse. Need to go grocery shopping, but your kid also needs a ride to a soccer game? No problem, a driverless car can handle that.

Most people don’t need cars most of the time but pay for the convenience of having one nearby when they do. Schedule-able on-demand driverless cars could eliminate that need, with the added bonus of expanding effortlessly to fit current capacity (e.g. imagine a family of four needing to go in four different directions at four different times…just schedule four Hertz Driverless pickups from your phone). Of course, people said similarish things about the Segway

The twilight of the free-running car

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2011

I posted about Chris Burden’s Metropolis II a few months ago. The artist is almost set to deliver the piece to Los Angeles County Museum of Art and there’s a proper preview for it:

My favorite line of the interview with Burden that runs over the video:

The idea that a car runs free, those days are about to close.

(via sippey)

Chris Burden’s latest project “a portrait of LA”

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2010

For a piece called Metropolis II, artist Chris Burden is building a huge track and put 1200 Hot Wheels cars on it…the noise is deafening when they’re all circulating.

It includes 1,200 custom-designed cars and 18 lanes; 13 toy trains and tracks; and, dotting the landscape, buildings made of wood block, tiles, Legos and Lincoln Logs. The crew is still at work on the installation. In “Metropolis II,” by his calculation, “every hour 100,000 cars circulate through the city,” Mr. Burden said. “It has an audio quality to it. When you have 1,200 cars circulating it mimics a real freeway. It’s quite intense.”

(thx, aaron)

Crazy car driving skills

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2010

This is Ken Block practicing a sport called gymkhana, which is sort of the Mario Kart version of rodeo barrel racing.

The build-up is way too long…the good stuff starts at about 1:10 and the crazy-ass shit starts at 3:00. The move right at three minutes in is just absolutely fantastic as is the 360 sliding thing he does through a building. (via clusterflock)

Wee Fiat 1970s concept car

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2010

Fiat City Car

Isn’t that the cutest little thing? The City Car was a concept car with an electric engine designed by Fiat in 1972. I say build the sucker…what a beautiful machine. They could call it the Fiat Squee!!

Vans, vans, vans

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2010

Photos of vans and the places where they were. Suddenly, I want a van. (via matt)

How Porsches are made: by hand

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2009

Here’s the first part in a series of five videos from the 1960s that show how Porsches are made:

A Continuous Lean has the other four parts.

Trabant refresh

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2009

The Trabant 601, 1963:

Trabant 1963

Wikipedia notes of the Trabant:

For advocates of capitalism it is often cited as an example of the disadvantages of centralized planning as even refueling the car required lifting the hood, filling the tank with gasoline (only 24 litres), then adding two-stroke oil and shaking it back and forth to mix.

Pollution, poor construction, and lack of availability were also issues with the East German auto.

Trabant nT concept car, 2009:

Trabant 2009

Here’s the official site; plus more photos. BBC News has an overview of the project:

A German consortium is developing a slick, updated version of the Trabant, communist East Germany’s famously unreliable mass-produced car. The new model is electric with solar panels on the roof — in stark contrast to the fume-belching original.

Looks very cool.

The history of America is the history of the auto industry

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2009

Rich Cohen has a really fantastic article about the American history of the automobile and car salesman in the September issue of The Believer.

The history of America is the history of the automobile industry: it starts in fields and garages and ends in boardrooms and dumps; it starts with daredevils and tinkerers and ends with bureaucrats and congressmen; it starts with a sense of here-goes-let’s-hope-it-works and ends with help-help-help. We tend to think of it as an American history that opens, as if summoned by the nature of the age, early in the last century, when the big mills and factories were already spewing smoke above Flint and Detroit, but we tend to be wrong. The history of the car is far older and stranger than you might suppose. Its early life is like the knock-around life one of the stars of the ’80s lived in the ’70s, Stallone before Rocky, say, picking up odd jobs, working the grift, and, of course, porn. The first automobile turned up outside Paris in 1789, when Detroit was an open field. (The hot rod belonged to the Grand Armee before it belonged to Neal and Jack.) It was another of the great innovations that seemed to appear in that age of revolution.

Cohen references one of my favorite pieces from a few years ago, Confessions of a Car Salesman, in which a journalist goes undercover for three months at a pair of Southern California car dealerships. Required reading before purchasing a car.

Cohen’s article also reminded me just how many of the American cars on the road today owe their names to the people who actually started these companies and built these cars back in the early days. Ransom Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Walter Chrysler, Horace and John Dodge, Henry Ford, David Buick…some of these read like a joke from The Simpsons. Here’s Louis Chevrolet racing a Buick in 1910:

Louis Chevrolet

Looking overseas, there’s Karl Benz, Michio Suzuki (who didn’t actually start out building cars), Wilhelm Maybach, Ferdinand Porsche, and many others. In an interesting reversal of that trend, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (which eventually became part of Daimler-Benz) built a custom sports car for Emil Jellinek, who named it Mercedes after his daughter. Jellinek was so fond of the car that he legally changed his last name to Jellinek-Mercedes and thereafter went by E.J. Mercédès.

What fast looks like

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2009

People like to go fast and film themselves doing so. Modern technology offers a variety of ways to both go faster than ever before and record that speed for posterity. But for something to look fast on video, there needs to be a frame of reference for the viewer — something to hurtle past or whoosh by — and maybe even a hint of danger. Here are a selection of videos of people doing just that: traveling at high speeds in cars, on train tracks, through the air, and down mountains in close proximity to traffic, large rocks, and thin atmospheres. Most of these videos are filmed from a first-person perspective so that when you watch them, you can imagine that you’re the one zooming along.

In 1976, Claude Lelouch mounted a camera on the front of his Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 and drove through the streets of Paris — running red lights, jumping curbs and possibly reaching speeds upwards of 120 mph — before reaching his date near the Sacré Coeur. The result is the film C’était un rendez-vous, 8 uncut minutes of insane urban driving.

Base jumpers equipped with wingsuits can glide very fast very close to the ground. Perhaps the most insane videos on the page…they’re not doing 1200 mph or anything, but they are awfully close to the ground with few safety options if they slip up.

The lads at Top Gear took the Bugatti Veyron to its top speed of 253 mph on a test track. The test driver seems to have had what I would term a religious experience at the top speed.

Two gents in powder-blue suits speed down a California hill on skateboards. Holy crap!

240 mph on a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle. Oh, and he does a wheelie from 70 to 140 mph. (Note: Wikipedia says the bike has an “electronically restricted” top speed of 188 mph. Either the owner a) removed the restriction, or b) tweaked the speedometer to display higher than normal speeds.)

In 1960, Joseph Kittinger reached a speed of 714 mph after jumping from a helium balloon at an altitude of 102,800 feet.

A French TGV train reaches a top speed of 357 mph in a 2007 test.

A camera mounted on the external tank records the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in May 2009. There’s not a lot to whoosh past here, but at an eventual 18,000 mph, the pace at which the Shuttle leaves the Earth behind is astounding.

While skydiving, both of Michael Holmes’ chutes failed as his helmet camera recorded his crash landing into some thick bushes. (He lived.)

Footage of Alex Roy and David Maher on the road as they sped across the entire United States in just over 32 hours, an unofficial world record. There is a book and a blog of the experience.

Passenger seat and road-side views of a Lamborghini Murcielago doing 219 mph on the 202 freeway in Mesa, Arizona.

Why GM failed

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2009

GM declared bankruptcy yesterday and the rush is on to explain what went wrong. Here are a few explanations I found, along with some possible solutions.

After 101 years, why GM failed, Peter Cohan, DailyFinance:

4. Failure to innovate. Since GM was focused on profiting from finance, it did not really care that much about building better vehicles. GM’s management failed to adapt GM to changes in customer needs, upstart competitors, and new technologies.

Seven reasons GM is headed to bankruptcy, Sharon Silke Carty, USA Today:

When GM realized how fast 1990s buyers were switching to trucks as personal transportation, it overreacted, pouring time and money into SUVs and pickups at the expense of car development. The result: As long ago as 2000, Wall Street was warning that GM could be overcommitted to trucks and wind up out of phase if the pendulum of buyer preference swung back to cars. Once consumer tastes began changing, the market was awash in new truck models, and profits were sapped by discounts needed to keep sales boiling.

Goodbye, GM, Michael Moore:

The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call “cars” may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

G.M.’s Road From Prosperity to Crisis, NY Times:

The company reached a deal with Saab to expand its European presence. Having an extensive brand lineup had been a primary strategy at G.M. since its creation in 1908. But this tactic eventually became costly, as brands overlapped and competed for business and money.

GM Reinvention, GM. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, it’s all there. Oy.

Ten Vehicles That Bankrupted GM, Matt Hardigree, Jalopnik:

The Pontiac Aztec was one of the first major crossover vehicles brought to market in the U.S. [It was] combination of car-like handling and fuel economy with SUV-like space and aggressive appearance. The concept was a hit and now most automakers are shifting towards crossover. The Aztec was a massive failure. It was an attractive idea in an amazingly unattractive shell. It failed almost entirely based upon its appearance.

Who’s to Blame for GM’s Bankruptcy?, William J. Holstein, BusinessWeek:

GM simply was not ready to respond to Toyota Motor and other Japanese manufacturers when they began to gain serious ground in the early 1980s. Toyota, in particular, had developed a lean manufacturing system that was completely different from the mass-assembly-line techniques GM was still using, many decades after Henry Ford perfected them. GM’s fractured structure meant that each division had its own manufacturing processes, its own parts, its own engineering, and its own stamping plants.

How GM Lost Its Way, Paul Ingrassia, WSJ:

The picture of a heedless union and a feckless management says a lot about what went wrong at GM. There were many more mistakes, of course — look-alike cars, lapses in quality, misguided acquisitions, and betting on big SUVs just before gas prices soared. They were all born of a uniquely insular corporate culture.

The Quagmire Ahead, David Brooks, NY Times:

Over the last five decades, this company has progressively lost touch with car buyers, especially the educated car buyers who flock to European and Japanese brands. Over five decades, this company has tolerated labor practices that seem insane to outsiders. Over these decades, it has tolerated bureaucratic structures that repel top talent. It has evaded the relentless quality focus that has helped companies like Toyota prosper.

The End of the Affair, P.J. O’Rourke, WSJ:

We became sick and tired of our cars and even angry at them. Pointy-headed busybodies of the environmentalist, new urbanist, utopian communitarian ilk blamed the victim. They claimed the car had forced us to live in widely scattered settlements in the great wasteland of big-box stores and the Olive Garden. If we would all just get on our Schwinns or hop a trolley, they said, America could become an archipelago of cozy gulags on the Portland, Ore., model with everyone nestled together in the most sustainably carbon-neutral, diverse and ecologically unimpactful way.

Why GM failed, Jack Lessenberry, Detroit Metro Times:

What’s wrong, in a nutshell, is that it is a narrow, insular culture. Those who make it to the top of the heap, like Rick Wagoner, tend to be white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males who have worked at the same company their entire career, and have come up with the same set of buddies. Sort of like the Delta Tau Delta fraternity Wagoner joined when he was in business school.

Update: The WSJ’s Photo Journal blog has photos and brief stories of a number of people affected by GM’s bankruptcy. Gary Thomas, a mechanic from Kingston, TN, put about $800,000 in GM bonds.

“I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t investing in stocks. GM was a solid company. … The bonds were my entire nest egg. I’m not a whiner and I don’t want special treatment. What really ticks me off is that it seems like we are getting less than everyone else and we deserve to be treated equally. I’m just trying to figure out a way to make it to 65 so I can start drawing my social security.”

Update: After Many Stumbles, the Fall of a Giant, Micheline Maynard, NY Times:

The company did have vast numbers of loyal buyers, but G.M. lost them through a series of strategic and cultural missteps starting in the 1960s. It bungled efforts in the 1980s to cut costs by sharing the underpinnings of its cars across different brands, blurring their distinctiveness. G.M. gave in to union demands in 1990 and created a program that paid workers even when plants were not running, forcing it to build cars and trucks it could not sell without big incentives.

Update: Salutary lessons from the downfall of a carmaker, John Kay, Financial Times:

The factors that had once been the company’s strengths were now weaknesses. Mass production and piece-rate incentives created a workforce with little pride in the quality of the product. The cadre of professional managers became a complacent, inward-looking bureaucracy. The diversified corporation became a collection of competing baronies.

From a couple of years ago, The Risk Pool, Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker:

Surely, if you are losing money on every car you sell, as G.M. is, cutting car prices still further in order to boost sales doesn’t make any sense. It’s like the old Borsht-belt joke about the haberdasher who lost money on every hat he made but figured he’d make up the difference on volume. The economically rational thing for G.M. to do would be to restructure, and sell fewer cars at a higher profit margin — and that’s what G.M. tried to do this summer, announcing plans to shutter plants and buy out the contracts of thirty-five thousand workers. But buyouts, which turn active workers into pensioners, only worsen the company’s dependency ratio. Last year, G.M. covered the costs of its four hundred and fifty-three thousand retirees and their dependents with the revenue from 4.5 million cars and trucks. How is G.M. better off covering the costs of four hundred and eighty-eighty thousand dependents with the revenue from, say, 4.2 million cars and trucks?

NASCAR helped GM down its path of self-destruction, Viv Bernstein, True/Slant:

How ironic, given NASCAR’s role in helping the auto industry race down its path of self-destruction. Major auto companies used NASCAR for years to push cars and trucks with poor fuel economy numbers. The sport, in some ways, came to symbolize America’s embrace of consumption. Consider that NASCAR didn’t even switch to unleaded gasoline until 2007. And even today, the racecars and trucks that auto companies are marketing through NASCAR are among the least fuel efficient, from the Dodge Charger to the Chevrolet Silverado.

(thx, fargo & coates)

The Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2009

A metaphor for the current state of the American auto industry: two cars in an art gallery crashing into each other over a period of six days.

Slow Car Crash

(via today and tomorrow)

Update: This exhibit is currently on display at The Boiler in Brooklyn. (thx, jeff)

Update: See also Chris Burden’s Samson.

A museum installation consisting of a 100-ton jack connected to a gear box and a turnstile. The 100-ton jack pushes two large timbers against the bearing walls of the museum. Each visitor to the museum must pass through the turnstile in order to see the exhibition. Each input on the turnstile ever so slightly expands the jack, and ultimately if enough people visit the exhibition, Samson could theoretically destroy the building.

Here’s a video. (via things)

Go fast

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2009

Some people are working on cars that will go 800 or even 1000 miles per hour on the flat desert of Nevada.

The rules are simple. Clock the racer through a measured mile, turn around and do it again, then average the two speeds. Mr. Shadle said Eagle would need 11 miles for each run: a mile to warm up to 250 miles per hour; four miles to light off the afterburner and get up to record speed; a mile in the speed trap; and five miles to stop. The vehicle must have at least four wheels - two of them steerable — and be back at the original start line within 60 minutes. And that’s it.

The $2000 car

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2009

The Nano, the new $2000 car from India’s Tata Motors, goes from 0 to ~60 mph in 23 seconds (and even slower with the A/C on) and has the simplest dashboard I’ve seen on a car. For reference, the Honda Accord goes 0-60 in 6-9 seconds, depending on the model. (via snarkmarket)

What the crash computer saw

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2009

In a car crash involving a modern vehicle, everything happens before the occupant is even aware of the collision.

1 ms - The car’s door pressure sensor detects a pressure wave.

5 ms - Car’s crash computer checks for insignificant crash events, such as a shopping trolley impact or incidental contact. It is still working out the severity of the crash. Door intrusion structure begins to absorb energy.

20 ms - Door and B-pillar begin to push on front seat. Airbag begins to push occupant’s chest away from the impact.

70 ms - Airbag continues to deflate. Occupant moves back towards middle of car.

Engineers classify crash as “complete”.

150-300 ms - Occupant becomes aware of collision.

(via gulfstream)

The Hofmeister Kink

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2009

Have you ever noticed that the rear side window on a BMW has a small design element that hooks back toward the front of the car?

Rather than having the rear side window extend all the way down as might be expected, it angles back toward the front of the car.

Yeah, me either, but apparently all BMWs have it. It’s called the Hofmeister Kink, so named for the Director of Design at BMW who oversaw the style tweak, Wilhelm Hofmeister. Other carmakers have copied the Kink to make certain models appear luxury. (via spronblog)

The Last Traffic Jam

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2008

From The Last Traffic Jam in The Atlantic.

Unless we exercise foresight and devise growth-limits policies for the auto industry, events will thrust us into a crisis that will lead to a substantial erosion of our domestic oil supply as well as the independence it provides us with, and a level of petroleum imports that could cost as much as $20 to $30 billion per year. (This in turn would produce a staggering balance-of-payments problem for the United States, and give the Middle Eastern suppliers a dangerous leverage over our transportation system as well.) Moreover, we would still be depleting our remaining oil reserves at an unacceptable rate, and scrambling for petroleum substitutes, with enormous potential damage to the environment.

And:

In short, common sense dictates that we begin a transition to policies designed to avoid an energy impasse that could cripple out transportation system and imperil our economy. We must set growth limits that will allow the automobile and oil industries to maintain economic stability while conserving our resources and preserving our environment. Of course, such a reorientation will require statesmanship as well as public pressure. It will not happen unless corporate self-interest yields to a responsible outlook that serves the broader interests of the nation as a whole. Above all, this shift requires a thorough redirection of the aims of these two industries.

Believe it or not, those words appeared in the magazine in 1972. These views would have seemed out-of-date and old fashioned just a year or two ago but now all those chickens are coming home to roost.

Ebert’s 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2008

Roger Ebert reminisces about the car of his boyhood dreams, the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk.

“When these cars were new,” I said. “They weremuch faster than ‘57 Corvettes or T-Birds. The salesmen would put a client on the back seat, put a $100 bill on the front seat, and tell the client he could keep the money if he could overcome the force of the acceleration, and lean forward and pick it up while the Hawk was doing zero-to-60.”

Ebert owned a Golden Hawk for several years before he had to sell it because he couldn’t maintain it properly.

Farewell, Yugo

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2008

Until last week, Yugos were still in production in Serbia. The factory will be retooled to produce Fiats for its new owner.

How do you make a Yugo go fast? Push it off a cliff.

What do you call the passengers in a Yugo? Shock absorbers.

Why do Yugos have heated rear windows? To keep your hands warm while you push it.

Ha ha. Yugo jokes were popular in my family during one particular Christmas…the year before it was dead baby jokes.